‘I’m over being a pop star. I don’t wanna be a hot girl. I wanna be iconic’ – Beyonce
A few years ago I wrote a post about 90s Girlbands, then followed it up last year with a post about 90s Boyands. The I figured why stop there? There are tonnes of other 90s female solo stars that I wanted to reminisce about that didn’t fall into either of those categories who deserved to be remembered too..
I loved a bit of Paula Abdul long before Britney and Christina came along and long before she revealed herself as being a a few sandwiches short of a pic nic on American Idol. Straight Up is an absolute pop banger which still sounds modern today. The video she did when she appeared to be in a relationship with a cartoon cat was a bit weird though.
Just scraping into the 90s by the skin of her teeth but worthy of a mention nontheless. Very much pitted as a rival to more squeaky clean Britney, kind of like a Tiffany vs Debbie Gibson of the late 90s. But that always seemed weird to me, I mean surely you were allowed to like them both. If we are going to compare 90s teenpop apples though (and i’m not talking about Britney’s boob job) then I was probably Team Britney. Despite Christina having better vocal chops, Britney had better songs thanks to the same Swedish pop team who wrote the soundtrack to my teen years. The Genie in a Bottle video made me want to own a pair of orange parachute pants though.
She found fame playing Will Smith’s little cousin in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, where she dabbled in a bit of singing in the show so made sense that she would release an album on her own with the help of her mate Will. Her first, and only album Kiss the Sky was summery pop/r’n’b brilliance but it didn’t exactly set the world on fire so she went back to acting and married a guy she met on eHarmony, which i think is dead canny.
I swear the fact that Shola Ama was discovered singing to herself on a Tube station platform saw a rise in young girls singing out loud on the metro hoping someone would pick them up. She had her biggest hit in the mid 90s with You Might Need Somebody but her follow up single You’re The One I Love was poppier and more upbeat so much better in my humble opinion. Sadly despite a successful first album she never really set the world on fire much after that.
Think of a ginger Kate Bush and you’d be pretty much spot on. She was all the rage for a year or so in the mid 90s. Cornflake Girl was pretty angsty and suited my moody teenage years and when Professional Widow was remixed it made me wish I was old enough to go to Ibiza with my friends. If the holiday we took to Tenerife after our A Levels was anything to go by though I pleased I didn’t.
Anggun definitely falls into one hit wonder category and even though that one ‘hit’ seems to be remembered by only me. But what a hit it is! I seem to remember Snow on the Sahara was used in a car advert which is where I first heard it. She’s continued to release music and be successful in France. She’s also a judge on Indonesian X-Factor and Indonesia’s Got Talent. She was the first Indonesian woman to appear in Madam Tussauds. Fact fans.
One of the benefits of having been raised in mainland Europe is you become aware of loads of random singers. Anouk is Dutch and if you’ve heard anything from her it will be her 1997 single Nobody’s Wife, which is a total banger. She worked heavily with Glen Ballad so produced song after song of guitary Alanis Morsiette-y Anastacia-y type stuff. She then recorded a cover of REM’s Losing my Region and got the majority of the words wrong so I was out at that point.
I wrote a while ago about when you’re going through hard times you find a song that you listen to over and over again because for those 4 minutes you forget about what’s on your mind. Sleeping Satellite by Tasmin Archer was one of those songs for me when I split up with my first boyfriend. Since 2006 she’s been writing and producing music for film and TV soundtracks and is a Sunderland AFC ticket holder, for her sins.
Billie was 100% one of my guilty pleasures in the 90’s because quite frankly I was old enough to know better. But i will still maintain that her first album is pure pop and totally summery. I mean it’s proper fromage, but it’s good cheese. I wasn’t as much of a fan of her second album, even though the singles were good and she went more Britney. It’s probably best for everyone that she gave it all up and became and actress though. Too much cheese gives you nightmares.
Brandy was like the 90s Beyonce before Beyonce was Beyonce. Known initially from her stint on (excellent) TV show Moesha, she did actually start out her career as a singer first. Then went into TV, then back to music again. And when she did her album Never Say Never was never far from my 3 disc CD changer. Her third album (Full Moon) spawn the absolute bangers What about Us and Full Moon but she’s never been able to release an album that sold over a million copies since.
Another almost Beyonce but a lot more soulful and a lot deeper. Have you ever tried to sing along to a Toni Braxton song? It’s super deep almost like and anti-Mariah – for which I’m thankful for. She started out in a singing group with her sisters, imaginatively titled The Braxtons before really becoming known for the single Unbreak My Heart. The follow up single You’re Making me High is lyrically utter filth (in a good way) and she also went to dabble in reality TV and collaborate more with her sisters again.
Riding very much on the crest of the Alanis Morrissette wave, when Meredith Brooks released Bitch in 1997 I think even blind Freddie could see it had one hit wonder written all over it. Her follow up single I Need was half decent, but without a mild profanity that teenage girls could shout at the top of their voice without getting told off. It peaked at 28 in the UK singles chart and Meredith was never heard of again
If you’ve heard anything from a Dina Carroll it’s likely to have been on an advert for coffee back in the early 90s. Her two biggest singles; Don’t Be a Stranger and The Perfect Year (both released in 1993) were bore-fests of epic proportions however didn’t stop her winning the award for Best British Female at the 1994 Brit Awards. She was dropped by her record label in 2000 and hasn’t released anything other than a greatest hits in 2004.
I was ob-sessed with the single Legend of a Cowgirl when it came out in 1997, back when I was a boy-hating angsty 15-year-old and eagerly awaited the album that followed hoping this Imani would replace the Alanis Morissette shaped void in my soul. Although the album was decent, Legend… was head and shoulders the best single on there. She came back a few years later as part of duo Little Jackie who released (another great one hit wonder) ‘The World Should Revolve Around Me’ in 2008. So it appears she has a good song in her every 10 years or so. I’m looking forward to her next offering
Where do you even start with Mariah and her ever involving image? I reckon you fall into one of two Mariah camps. Early, curly haired, denim shorts wearing, frolicking in fields of corn Mariah, or gold bikini wearing, midriff showing, bumping n grinding on boats with hunky men Mariah. I’m definitely in the former category as I feel she totally lost her way after the Honey album where everything was over produced, had too many guest rappers on and she wore far too few clothes. Bring back the knotted checked shirts I say!
Neneh Cherry was one of my all-time favourites in the 80s and 90s after seeing the video for Buffalo Stance on my VHS of Now That’s What I Call Music 14, followed by the equally excellent Manchild. In the 90s she released the anthemic Woman which started a move of female empowerment which was later picked up and ran with by the Spice Girls. She also collaborated with Cher and Chrissie Hynd for the comic relief single Love Can Build a Bridge in 1995 and who didn’t love that?
If you’ve never seen an episode of Dawson’s Creek (and if you haven’t, are you even a child of the 90s?) the you probably won’t know who Paula Cole is as she sung the theme tune. The album that I Don’t Want to Wait came from also had the (way, way better) single Where Have All the Cowboys Gone, which is a great sing along in the car tune even if we never did find out where they all went.
Again, not particularly popular in the UK whoever she did appear on an alarming amount of r’n’b completion CDs (who am I kidding – cassettes) in the 90s. I first heard of her on a free tape I got with Smash Hits with a song called Who Do You Love, and then again on a compilation I bought with my own pocket money with a song called Sentimental. I then went so far as to buy her debut album with my own pocket money which contained a cover of Just be Good to Me. Which is my favourite version of that song ever.
Now this lass was right up my street when she came out with All I Wanna Do. I mean don’t get me wrong I was a huge Spice Girls fan, but was also a huge Alanis Morisette fan too, so needless to say rather partial to a chick with a guitar. Although I found her first album slightly underwhelming, her second was a banger and There Goes the Neighbourhood pretty solid too. Despite trying to make every wipe their arse with only one sheet of toilet paper she seems can pretty much do no wrong in my eyes.
Mostly known, or should I say only known for her 1995 song 3 is Family. When I was elbows deep in whatever Hits not Homework would play on a weekday night. This was on all the time. She started life on Broadway before venturing into pop and released two albums in 1991 and 1995 respectively but sadly died from colon cancer in 2010
The 90s were known for a lot of things, for me it was for a shed load of one hit wonders. Deetah had one single, Relax, which reached number 11 in the UK and she also appeared in a Richard Blackwood single in 2000.
Can’t have a 90s guide to 90s singers without ballad queen Celine and her orange lipstick can we? She was never really my cup of tea, mainly because anything she released between about 1996 and 1999 was just so over played. I did like the Falling Into You album however, particularly the song If That’s What It Takes (which she also released in French). She’s also become one of the biggest selling Vegas shows of all time (after the Backstreet Boys – haha!) and who doesn’t love singing Your Herat Will Go On anytime you’re on a boat?
Always forever known for her single Oooh Ah (Just a Little Bit) which was, by Eurovision standards, quite the banger, however he second single (yes, there was a second single) called I Belong To You was actually much better IMO. She appeared in Reborn in the USA in 2006, where she came across as a really nice lass to be fair and had a failed ‘come back’ in 2012.
I loved Gabrielle in the 90s. Her album Rise is one of my favourites of all time and may even sneak into my top 10 if I were to dare be so bold. She seemed to have one massive hit per album; Dreams (from Find Your Way) Give Me A Little More Time (from Gabrielle) and Rise (from er, Rise) but for me it was some of her minor hits or album tracks that were really good. Check out Forgot about the World from Gabrielle and Tell Me What You Dream from Rise and you won’t be disappointed. The one thing that put me off her was speaking to Beki from 90s girlband Solid Harmonie (check me out) who told me she was a but of a tit to them when they had to share a dressing room for a show. Which isn’t very nice is it Gabs?
There was a speight of soap actors becoming pop stars in the 90s (Sean Maguire, John Alford, Adam Rickett – swoon) but I might go so far as to say Michelle Gayle was one of my favourites. She was a better singer than she ever was an actress in Eastenders that’s for sure and her songs Sweetness, Looking Up, Freedom and Do You Know are all on my Spotify playlist. More importantly thought she sang on the Childliners charity single Gift of Christmas with Backstreet Boys, so if she’s been in the same room as my boys she’s cool with me
Remember the uproar when Geri left the Spice Girls? I do, it was a Sunday and I honestly didn’t know how the world would carry on. Biggest pop news in my lifetime (up to that point) so I just flailed around all day hoping that Baby was ok. Confession time now, I actually really loved Look At Me as a single, and Lift Me Up, and Mi Chico Latino. Against my better judgement because I really wanted to dislike her. When she went all skinny however and released It’s Raining Men she jumped the shark for me and I was out.
One of those singers that seemed to make a career supporting people on tour and going the Smash Hits roadshows. Hinda Hicks was a british singer who released two brilliant singles (If You Want Me and You Think You Own Me) toured with Boyzone and was nominated for 3 MOBO awards. She released a second album in 2000 but it wasn’t well promoted and she was dropped by her label. She more recently did some background vocals for Tinie Tempah.
Another one who probably flew under the radar for most people and I’m only really aware of here because she support BSB on tour in 1997. However, much in the same vein as Neneh Cherry and Gabrielle, she did turn out a few minor soulful pop hits in the shape of Alright and I Like The Way (the lyrics to which are very cheeky). She’s continued to release music and tour in her native Australia and her 2012 wedding was featured in a glossy mag so she’s still kind of a big deal over there.
When it was announced that Natalie was leaving Neighbours to embark on a pop career everyone assumed she’d be the next Kylie. So imagine our surprise when she came out as this really cute indie pixie. I mean Torn was completely overplayed and I could do with never hearing it again, her debut album was great though, particularly Wishing I Was There. I seem to remember she had a good couple of singles in the years to follow but nothing too chart worrying.
Probably one of my favourite female singers after Madge. She went from being Michael’s chubby baby sister to a totally ripped badass r’n’b queen. I was obsessed with the dance breakdown she did in the If video (still am to be honest) and always tried to recreate it (unsuccessfully) in my bedroom. For me, the Velvet Rope era was my favourite, and is the kind of artist that if I saw live, I’d have to veto the setlist but considering she’s still touring at past 50, you can’t knock the lass.
Jewel was almost the 90s Taylor Swift having one solid album which soundtracked lots of 90s shows like Dawson’s Creek. In 2003 she did a total Taylor and left her country/bluesy roots behind by releasing a god-awful pop album and tried to be all sexy and stuff which was a failed attempt at irony in my opinion. She then went back to her guitar-based roots and the world was glad of it
Like my mum, all the best things come out of the West Country. Beverley Knight has released some absolute tunes over her long career yet still doesn’t seem to fly all that high on many peoples radars. In the mid 90s she released first single Flavour of the Old School, which still sounds great to this day and has steadily released good quality soul/pop infused albums since then. A particular highlight for me was the 2004 album Affirmation and 2011’s soul UK, which features an absolutely sublime version of George Michael’s One More Try. Most underrated artist of the 90s in my humble opinion…
Kele Le Roc
Strongly positioned with Deetah in the one hit wonder camp, in fact i think both their songs were released at a similar time and I always got them mixed up. Kele Le Roc was british though and had the number 8 single Little Bit of Lovin in 1998, which was a strong effort (well, I liked it anyway). Her wikipedia page lists her years active as 1995 – present however the last thing she did of note was 2009 so not that present in the grand scheme of things.
Do you know how many albums Lisa Loeb has released? 9. do you know how many songs of hers i know? 1. And i 100% guarantee it will be the same song you know. What a song it is though! Stay (I Missed You) form the Reality Bites soundtrack is quite the karaoke favourite of mine, and when my best mate puts on a pair of glasses she looks like Lisa, why isn’t that on her website bio eh? It’s quite the coup.
Lolly was probably the closest thing to the female Aaron Carter yet even more annoying if that was at all possible. She released a few singles which were undoubtedly rejected by Steps and faced extremely minor controversy when Smash Hits revealed her to be a bit older than she was making out (although to be fair, even I have a showbiz age, so can’t hold that against her too much). You know what one of the funniest things about having two of your best friends being 5 years younger than you is? They were young enough to genuinely love Lolly whereas I was a much cooler teenager who saw Lolly for exactly what she was. Shit.
Louise, on the other hand, I thought was brilliant and was probably my favourite female popstar of the 90s. Originally in the band Eternal but left because she wanted to go in a more pop direction (or was bullied out by those evil Bennett sisters depending on who you want to believe) He first album Naked was pop hit after pop hit, and I still have some album tracks from that on my phone. She even managed to go a little more street with elegance by sampling Wu Tang Clan in her song Beautiful Inside. A banger i’m sure you’ll agree. She then went into fashion, and was victim to the Strictly Curse in 2017 and split up from husband Jamie and the worlds most beautiful couple was no more.
What do Madonna and Jon Bon Jovi have in common? Well, they’re both somewhat musical heroes of mine yet are apparently wholly abhorrent people. Nevertheless her back catalogue is nothing to be sniffed at. I joined the cult of Madge around the True Blue era which she was wholesome enough for an eight year old girl to be a fan. I dipped in and out through the 90s. She peaked with Vogue and went severely down hill with the Erotica Album but by that time 5 lads from Florida caught my attention for a hot minute so I didn’t really care for her sexy antics. I was firmly back on board for Ray of Light though and maintain she’s continued to release good music since then. He most recent album Rebel Heart is AH-MAY-ZING.
A lot of people won’t even remember Martine McCiucheon was a popstar for 30 seconds, then again a lot of people won’t remember Martine McCutcheon was an actress once upon a time as well, since all she seems to do is flog yogurts these days. However a pop star she was, going to number one no less with her first single Perfect Moment in 1999. Incredibly she released 4 albums after that, the last in 2017 which I think is safe to say passed everyone by. She was good in Love Actually though.
She had a string of singles which all sounded identical in 1997 and 1998 and allegedly dated Howie from the Backstreet Boys so already achieved more of my dreams in the space of 18 months than I have in 36 years. That was all we ever heard of her in the UK but she’s continued to release music in Germany and Switzerland. And turns out she never married any of the Backstreet Boys so maybe we’re more similar than I first thought.
One of the (many) things that Ang and I bonded over was the fact that we used to have the same Dannii Minogue poster from Fast Forward magazine on our walls when we were kids. I mean, far be it for me to diss Kylie, everyone loves Kylie, but Dannii was the younger, funner Mingoue sister, especially as she came out with her infections Stock, Aiken and Waterman pop just as Kylie was going all dark and indie. After her pop beginnings she went a bit dancy in the late 90s, then (unpopular opinion) was one of the best judges the X-Factor has ever seen. I mean, how can you be mad at someone who gave us Stacey Soloman?
Kylie is another one of those people who can do no wrong in my eyes (apart from maybe the single she did with Nick Cave which is the expectation that proves the rule). Her first album Enjoy Yourself was one of the first albums I ever had and I always maintain that if Dave and I were ever invited to an 80s/90s themes party we would go as Kylie and Jason. My personal favourite version of Kylie is indie Kylie; and the song Did It Again is just brilliant. She’s gone a bit country recently but the one thing you can rely on is she’ll always go back to her pop roots eventually.
Hot on the heels of Britney, Christina and Jessica was Mandy who released the poptastic Candy in 1999. She had a few more minor pop hits in the early 00s but never really worried the top ten all that much. She did do a surprisingly good cover album in 2003 which contained a brilliant version of The Whole of the Moon. She turned her back on the music industry however and threw herself successfully into acting most notably staring in This is Us, which I have to watch sparing because it makes me cry too much.
Another unpopular opinion. I think I preferred Monica to Brandy. She sang all the best bits in The Boy is Mine and *fact fans* she had an absolutely banging single, essentially about being on your period called Just One of Dem Days a few years prior. The single she released after The Boy is Mine (First Night – about not being loose) was also great however she too turned her back on the pop scene in favour of acting, albeit reality TV.
I mean, a short paragraph seems arbitrary since I’ve written actual full length blog posts about this woman. Needless to say, I’m a fan. Most remember for the anthemic Jagged Little Pill I’m also rather partial to second album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, which was torn a new one by critics. Me and Emma ticked off something on our concert bucket list last year by seeing her in concert, where she was absolutely incredible. If I was ever to be a popstar and release and album of covers, it would be all Alanis Morissette songs.
In keeping with the theme ‘people famous for one song but awkward Newman actually prefers the follow up’ everyone remembers Billie Myers for Kiss the Rain. Also, a very important song for any Dawson’s Creek fans, I, however, in my pedantry, much prefer second single Tell Me. She’s released a few more albums since then, and spoken out a lot in favour of same sex marriage, even criticised the great Barry O for not addressing the issue during a human rights speech. The rebel.
It’s incredible really that someone can be as famous as Sinead O’Connor when they’re really only known for one song. And I’ll be perfectly honest there was a long time when I didn’t realise her and Delores O’Riordan were different people (both bald Irish women). Let’s be honest though if you’re going to be remembered for only one song then Nothing Compares 2 U (written by Prince, fun fact) is a good one. She also has a song called Jealous which is on the, you guessed it, Dawson’s Creek soundtrack which is very good.
Again, a fine example of someone where the second single is better than the one everyone knows. I’m starting to sound like a broken record here but the facts don’t lie, and Sober is a much better song than Crush. Oh and in 2009 she released a single Beautiful Lie with my main man Nick Carter, which he sounds amazing on (and looks really fit in the video). Her last album in 2015 was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, which is never a good sign is it?
She started as a chubby country star when she released How Do I Live in 1997, which must have been one of the most overplayed songs of the year, if not the decade. She sexed up her image a bit for Can’t Fight the Moonlight in 2000 and cowboy themed bars became all the rage for half an hour. She’s one girl I never warmed to I must admit. She over sang everything and always looked a bit smug, like she’d steal your husband from right under your nose, oh, wait…
Last time I was playing Heads Up with Ang on a train, the clue she gave me for Robyn was ‘Swedish singer that only you like’. Which made me laugh, but is probably largely true. Not to be a dick about it. What she probably means is I’ve been a fan of Robyn’s since the very beginning when she was a Swedish pop pixie, long before she was a cool trendy techno chick. I also maintain that her album, Don’t Stop the Music, is one of the best pop albums of all time, so it’s such a shame it was never released in the UK. I long to one day be as cool as she is.
Suffice to say the 90s had a lot of female one hits wonders. I remember Rebekah Ryan’s single You Lift Me up from the hours I used to spend listening to Hits Not Homework whilst not doing my homework in 1996 and always loved it. I can’t be certain I didn’t make up my own dance routine to it, and even less certain that I can’t remember it to this day – it’s all arms and largely terrible. In 2001 she rebranded herself as a rock chick but neither her new single or album managed to sell. She appeared on The X-Factor in 2007 and 2016 where she made Bootcamp both time but never through to the live shows. Can’t help but think if she’d known about my amazing choreography things might have gone differently?
I always forget that Jessica Simpson was cute as a button once upon a time when all I can think of when I think of her in that gratuitous teeny bikini in the These Boots Were Made for Walking video. Ever ugly singing face aside she’s managed to make quite the career for herself but that’s arguably more down to be being thicker than a McDonald milkshake on reality TV than it is down to her singing.
I mean do I really have to explain who Britney is or what happened to her? I loved Britney, I still love Britney other than her story is a bit of a sad one and watching her perform these days makes me want to put a blanket round her and say ‘it’s ok pet, you don’t need to do this anymore’. I remember in 1999 when Baby One More Time came out and she was supposed to support BSB on their Millennium Tour, but she became so famous so quickly so pulled out (and was replaced by Tatyana Ali instead – see above) How amazing would that have been for a support act?!
Many women in the 90s seemed to be 2 hit wonders rather than one hit wonders Sybil will be best known for her two almost identical, but equally brilliant dance songs The Love I Lost and When I’m Good and Ready. She released a greatest hits in the late 90s and is now a music teacher in North Carolina.
When Taylor Swift was just a twinkle in her dad’s eye, Shania Twain was boot slapping and yee-hawing her way through the 90s pop charts with her quite frankly rubbish pop hits. BUT what sixth form party was complete without all the girls sassing along to Man I Feel Like A Woman and That Don’t Impress Me Much. And every wedding I went to around that period seemed to have From This Moment On as their first dance (and not the good version she recorded with Backstreet Boys). She headlined Caesars Palace in Vegas for a two residency in 2103 and a second due to start in December 2019.
What felt like one of the first in a short line of songs that came with their own dance routines, Saturday Night was everyone’s favourite at the Cragside School discos when I was 12. As is tradition with my nerdy music knowledge, I actually preferred second single Think of You which had and even better dance routine. Named after her music teacher (which, if i followed the same rules my stage name would be Blackwell), Whigfield is still riding on the coattails of that one single on the nostalgia pop circuit and seems like like to wear morph suits on stage. Which is weird.